Stumbling into kindness


When fall hits, I start thinking about Christmas presents. I like to have my holiday presents all planned out early so I can enjoy the season without rushing. However, this year I happened to stumble upon some gift giving at the last minute for some strangers. And in the end, it was more of a present for me…

This was the first Christmas that my children would both be gone. They were both off at college and celebrating Christmas morning with other friends and family. So that meant no stockings, no early morning presents or no childlike excitement. Needless to say, my mommy side was a bit sad. I enjoyed making the holidays extra special for the kids. (It may have been even more fun for me than them.)

So when I came across a Facebook post asking for donations for local families in need, I quickly offered some help. It would be nice to feel like Santa and it seemed simple enough. Buy a few grocery items that could be placed into a holiday food basket. The organizer, who was a stranger to me, happened to live just a few miles from me. That made it even easier for me to offer more help upon dropping off my contribution.

After talking with her, I found out that her idea of making a couple of food baskets turned into donations for eight families. Her and her two daughters had come up with the idea and made a simple post to a community Facebook group. Then, myself and others started donating. So her two baskets turned into eight. She was so overwhelmed at the sudden rush of donations, so I offered to help her deliver them on Christmas Eve. I mean, why not? I wasn’t doing anything with my kids that day anyway.

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This is the “basket” of food that was collected, which then turned into eight more.

For ease and safety, a majority of the baskets were taken to one location so that people could pick them up there. We were met with smiles and tears and genuine appreciation. Grown men and women humbly approached us and said, I’m …. you said to met you all here.  One man was picking up a basket for a woman with cancer. She wasn’t feeling well enough to get out, but her son came along too and greeted us with wide eyes when we gave him the food. Another woman showed up all tearful in her van that had a blanket for a side window. And a tattooed man that spoke of motorcycles could not completely hide his emotions as he drove away. It was touching to see how we had affected people in such a good way.

After we gave out those baskets, we had two more to deliver in the local area. One was to a single mom of five young boys. They didn’t know we were coming and when our cars pulled up on their dead end road, the boys started peaking out the window. I am sure they were wondering what a group of people were doing on their street all of the sudden. With a gallon of milk in my hand, I started to walk with the girls towards the house. Then I stopped. I realized I was walking with the girls who helped plan the event with their mom while she was standing back by the car. I couldn’t give out stuff with her girls while she stood in the shadows. I turned around and urged her to go instead since it was her idea after all. (We were trying not to overwhelm the lady by have too many people come to her door.)

So from the road, I saw the girls hug the young boys and the moms both wipe tears from their eyes. The boys started hopping around looking in the basket. There were no toys in the basket, but food is never a bad thing when your hungry.

Shortly after that, we stopped by an extended stay hotel. A lady came out slowly with a walker. She approached us and let us know that she was the one we contacted. We gave her the laundry basket full of food, and she started to tear up. I don’t know her story, but she thanked us for our kindness. I never thought I’d be in this position…but I am. So thank you. It means the world to me. 

The organizer of the baskets hugs a woman we gave to as her husband and daughter stand nearby.

I thought about her comment: she never thought she’d be here. That is so very true. None of know when life could give us some circumstance that throws us into a tailspin. And I know from my personal experience, it is hard to accept help. It is difficult to admit you need assistance. And it is humbling to need help from strangers.

As I watched these women hug, both crying, I felt a mix of sadness and joy. Here I was on Christmas Eve, standing in a parking lot with a bunch of strangers crying, and yet, I felt complete. Yes, I missed my kids and this was not how I envisioned my holiday. It was not even an idea until two days prior. Like the woman receiving the basket of food, I never thought I’d be here either. But here I was, and it felt good to be a part of something so simple and yet special…even if I stumbled into it.

 

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For the Daily Post Discover Challenge ~ Hope Gone Viral.

Update: Since this unplanned plan went so well. The ladies formed a group called the Breakfast Club and we plan to do more donations throughout the year.

And here is a message from the lady with five boys:

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Open Minded Love


We stood staring at each other, trying to look tough, yet friendly. He was really no different than me. He was a Soldier. His boots carried the same dust. His hands wore the same calluses. His eyes shielded the same mix of hope weighed down with pain.

We both had been fighting this war and lost loved ones. We both needed and wanted progress to validate our time, our loss. As he outstretched his arms in greeting, I realized he was different than me in some ways too though.

“Friend. Welcome. I am Abdul. Come. Sit with me. Let’s talk,” said the Iraqi Soldier. Yes, Abdul was different than me because the war he had been fighting was in his streets, and was endangering the country he loved. I dearly wanted peace for our Iraqi friends, but it was still not my home. My wife and kids were home in the United States. They were safe. Abdul’s were not.

“…My wife and son were killed by last year…I fight for my country and for God now…I fight with my American brothers…” said Abdul with a determined face. I recognized that piercing look. I had a similar look when my unit was attacked on my previous tour. I remember the gunfire, the explosions and my battle buddy falling. I remember the blood on my hands as I tried to save Cooper, as I tried to stop his bleeding. I couldn’t and part of me died with him that day. So I knew Abdul’s look and nodded my understanding.

“I will fight with you my brother. I too have lost loved ones. My closest friend, my Army brother, died in Ramadi last year….I miss him everyday…”

Abdul nodded and we began to talk about how we would work together to train and fight. My soldiers were to work side by side with his soldiers to teach them tactics. Together, American and Iraqi soldiers, would join to fight the hatred in his land.

As I started working daily with Abdul, I realized just how alike we were. He was not at all like the stereotype of middle Eastern men. He was just a man. He had loved his wife and boy. The unimaginable loss of them nearly crippled him, like when I lost Cooper. He enjoyed Army life like I did: the hard work, the strategic challenge, the physicality. He cherished a cool breeze on a quiet night. He appreciated a good sporting event. He’d die for his fellow soldier. Yes, we were very much the same.

After several months, Abdul and his team were ready. They would take over the training of their own Army. They would spearhead the charge and lead their own country into peace…or so I thought.

In moments, all the progress was undone. All the bounds we had built were broken.

Abdul and I were walking to the front of a crowd, to speak with a village elder. As the elder approached us, another soldier, one of Abdul’s, ran forward screaming, Allahu Akbar. Abdul, after looking at me, ran towards his soldier tackling him and pulling him away from me and the elder, who I threw myself on. Before Abdul and his soldier hit the ground, an explosion shook the area. Everyone fell to the ground that was not thrown there by the blast. Black smoke filled the air. Blood covered the ground. Screams filled the air. For a second, I lay there trying to digest what had happened. I jumped up. Looked at the elder’s minor wounds, and then turned to look for Abdul. He lay there, mangled and bleeding out. Yet, miraculously, he was still conscious.

“The elder is good? You are good brother?”

“Yes, you saved us Abdul. Now stop talking. Save your energy. You are getting out of here,” I lied.

Abdul struggled a small smile. “Don’t lie to me brother. It’s good. I will be a martyr.”

I grabbed Abdul’s face and knelt down near him. “You will always be a martyr and my friend. You have lived up to your name. You are truly a servant of God Abdul.”

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For the Discovery Challenge – Open Minded.

A fictional story on the complexities of war: becoming partners with local forces when it is a strong possibility that there is could be one or two extremists in the ranks. Though this story is fictional, I have heard of like real-life stories of multinational soldiers bonding and then suffering in one kind of attack or another. Once you become a “battle buddy” or “brother” with another soldier, that bond is strong, and differences fade away. To all those soldiers, both foreign and American, who have died, you are not forgotten.

The Adventure into Love


I’ve wandered the streets of Hungry sightseeing alone. I’ve been part of a few combat patrols on deployments. I’ve bungee jumped over shallow water in a foreign country. Yet, my biggest adventure to date has been looking for love.

We all seek it. If someone says they don’t, they are a liar. It’s a basic human need to want to be appreciated, cared for, and touched. It’s in our DNA. Sure, some of us avoid love. But we typically only do that AFTER we have tried love and been hurt.

I can understand that. Heck, I have even done that. It makes sense…for a awhile. If you don’t take the risk, you cannot get hurt. So you don’t talk to people outside of your bubble. You don’t go anywhere without your friends. You don’t make eye contact with strangers. You just stay safe…and alone. I did all of this and more, and it was lonely. I avoided love like it was a shark. It was dangerous. It was scary. And frankly, it was downright, just not worth it cuz love just hurt.

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But something changed in me. I got tired of hiding. I got bored of waiting for life to happen. I got tired of being sad. So, I started going out. Not to night clubs or whatever. No. I was too old for that. Plus, I had a daughter attending college in town. How awkward would that be to be out and someone say, “Hey Alexis, isn’t that your mom over there?” That would have been a big MOM FAIL. So no, there were no nightclubs involved.

What I did do though was find life, and in the process, I learned to love me. I went out to movies. I read my book over cocktails before attending the symphony. I tried a paddle board yoga class. I signed up for a kayak trip. I discovered new restaurants. I attempted maneuvering through a mountain bike trail. I wandered into new cities to take pictures. Sure, some of it felt awkward as I sat there by myself while couples seemed to surround me, flaunting their love. Eventually though, I got used to it. At one point, I was comfortable enough to just relax and enjoy the moments. It was ME time. I was trying new things, having fun and discovering life.

Friends would ask me, “How can you do that by yourself?” My response was typically, “Well, if I sit around and wait for someone to invite me, it may never happen. So, I just go and do it.” They would always comment how brave I was. I didn’t feel brave though. I felt alive. I felt like I was awakening from a deep, dark sleep. It was like I had put my dreams and desires on hold. I had forgotten who I was, what I wanted and where I wanted to go. It was invigorating.

With all that said though, I still never stopped wanting love. I’d see a couple somewhere walking hand and hand and feel a touch of sadness. I’d see a man hand his lady a tissue at church and think, Why can’t someone hand me Kleenex? Even though I was having the time of my life and discovering myself, I still craved love. I still longed for someone special.

So I started to take risks. I made eye contact with people. I gave out my number occasionally. I made a Match.com profile. I flirted when someone expressed interest. I went on some dates. I entered into various uneasy levels of relationships: we-are-just-friends, not-really-dating, just-hanging-out, friends-with-benefits and boyfriend-girlfriend.

And you know what? It sucked. OH MY GOODNESS, IT SUCKED. Some of it was downright awful and heartbreaking. Just so you have some context, here are a few examples of my dating adventures (some may be the same person as I am a slow learner):

  • One Match.com date asked me, in the first hour of our only date (while we were sitting across from each other), “Can I touch your butt?” My response – “How does that work? I am sitting on it right now?”
  • One guy said he’d come over on some holiday…then never showed up.
  • One guy would get jealous of my time with my children.
  • One blast-from-the-past flirted with me for months and invited me to come visit him. So I did. Then he just stopped talking to me. When I asked why the sudden change of behavior, all I got was, “Well, I guess we talked a lot before because we were catching up.” I guess my purchase of a flight got us all caught up. No need to carry on. Silly me.
  • One guy told me he loved me and then stopped making an effort to see me with no explanation after several months of talking and visits.
  • One guy threatened to kill himself when we broke up.
  • One guy forgot the difference between the separated-and-divorce-pending status and the still-married-and-no-damn-paperwork-even-stated status.
  • One guy text me relentlessly and would get upset if I didn’t answer right away…even if I was at work or a movie with my kids.
  • One guy broke up with me via text while I was at my mother’s funeral weekend at home because he was “tired of begging for my attention.”

I think you get the point. It is a crazy damn place out there in the dating world. I saw a hilarious video recently that summed it quite well.

Bravo Miss Arbuor! You explained it perfectly, and with such humor. Consider me a fan and follower.

Now comes the weird part though, I still don’t regret it – any of it. Sure yeah, I wish I could have avoided crying on my bathroom floor like I was in an episode of a Hallmark movie where I was literally dying of a broken heart. And by all means, I certainly would not want to relive the conflicted emotions of whether I was talking an ex-boyfriend out of suicide or putting myself in the perfect place for a murder-suicide scene. Yeah, I would change those details if I could. But the fact is, I can’t. And even though some of those things sucked big time, there were other moments of fun, and lessons learned. I took something from each relationship, each experience. I became a better person. For example, through all this dating craziness, I —

  • Started blogging.
  • Got more involved in my photography.
  • Learned to say no.
  • Realized my worth.
  • Refused to be a victim.
  • Got the courage to try new things.
  • Developed more confidence.
  • Learned to trust my gut instincts.
  • Traveled to new places.

Overall, I learned to love me first. And frankly, I truly believe this: If you can’t love yourself, how can you expect others to? So I kept doing what I wanted and kept playing in the game of love when an opportunity popped up. And you know what? It eventually stuck, but that is another story, or should I say, a blind-date fairytale. Whatever you call it, it has almost been a year since I met the man of my dreams and I am glad I took the risk in the adventure of love.

 

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For the Daily Post’s Discover Challenge ~ Adventure

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Writers Quote Wednesday Writing Challenge ~ Adventure